If you were disappointed that the CW's big "Heroes v Aliens" crossover technically began with a Supergirl episode that was 98.9 per cent crossover free, the second chapter more than made up for it, resulting in a hell of a watch and what is easily the best episode of The Flash this season.
Because even though it was the episode where the alien invaders actually started invading, and where Supergirl and the various Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow heroes joined forces to stop them, it was still, at its heart, an episode of The Flash. The SuperSTARS are the first ones to spot the alien spaceship, the Flash is the hero that brings all the heroes together and the Flash is the one who leads the team against the Dominators (even if in the very limited time he does actually command his troops he's sort of bad at it).
But most importantly, the episode addresses the Barry/Flashpoint issue -- and I mean really gets into it. As we've discussed before, the show has had a real reluctance for take Barry to task for selfishly rewriting the timeline to save his parents and live with them for a bit. The show has certainly criticised Barry, but never too much, and Barry has seemed sorrier for putting his friends out more than, you know, killing their loved ones, erasing their children from existence and basically ruining their lives.
I did not expect the crossover to be the place where The Flash would really, finally come to terms with Flashpoint, but it did, and it was fantastic. First, Dr Stein and Jax let Barry and Ollie listen to Future Barry's message about a giant war and how present him can't be trusted; Oliver is the one who says that it has to be kept secret while the new team deals with the Dominators. But when Cisco, still (rightfully) angry about his brother's death in the new timeline Barry created, hears the message, he's done -- he announces exactly what Barry did.
People are pissed. Ollie is stunned. Sara Lance is angry because she also desperately wants to rewrite history to save her sister, but knows she can't change history; she's furious that Flash did it anyway. Even Kara is clearly disappointed in Barry. The worst is Diggle, who suddenly learns he's lost a child he never knew existed, and his quiet agony is as cutting as anything. People rag on him so hard that for the first time I kind of felt a little sorry for him, even if everyone's anger is fully justified.
And afterwards? Barry feels bad. I mean, Barry finally feels the full what of what he did, and its consequences. He is, for the first time this season, truly penitent for his selfishness to the point where I actually think I'm finally satisfied, and I feel like the Flash can finally start to grow and learn from his massive screw-up and I can move on as well. Even the way The Flash manages to move past it -- Ollie gives Barry a pep talk where he says he would also do anything to spend time with his dead parents again (which, if the cost was Diggle's kid, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't) -- feels more earned than all the other times The Flash has tried to sweep Barry's crap under the rug.
So the episode had real meat to it, even though a massive, wonderful portion of it was still the delicious dessert of the superhero team-up. Watching Kara meet all the other heroes was like watching a puppy meet a herd of adorable unicorns. The Arrowverse's heroes discovering the incredible extent of Supergirl's powers was also immensely satisfying. (Jax: "What makes you so super?" [Supergirl flies into the air, burns S-shield into the ground using her heat vision] Diggle, in a small voice: "I'm convinced.") I mean, just look how happy she is to be training with these guys, even if the training is everyone shooting at her:
And when the Dominators mind control all the heroes other than the Flash and Green Arrow, facilitating the inevitable superhero fight, the fight is great. It may be the best action scene the DC/CW shows have ever put on, although admittedly the ground-based martial arts battle of Arrow vs White Canary, Speedy and Spartan don't quite measure up to the super-powered fight between Flash and Supergirl, Firestorm and the Atom. Really, it's Flash versus Supergirl which is the real draw, because they're the two most super-powered people in the CW-verse. I have to tell you, watching Flash fight someone at top speed who isn't just another evil speedster, but also has other crazy powers like heat vision, was something I had no idea I wanted so badly.
The episode wasn't perfect -- the, uh US President was disintegrated and no one seems to be concerned; Green Arrow and Diggle were literally going to be shot to death by Vigilante if the Flash hadn't randomly stopped by; Iris and Joe's refusal to let Wally use his new speed powers is obnoxious at a character level (Iris literally demands people lie to Wally to make him feel unconfident in his speed) and at a narrative level; the "Dr Stein suddenly has a daughter" plot goes nowhere that isn't completely obvious -- but they're more than outweighed by all the goodness. For goodness sake, the assembled team trains in a Star Labs aeroplane hangar that looks exactly like the old Hall of Justice. It's wonderful.
So if Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow are even close to as good as The Flash was, we're in for a truly great three-part crossover (that has been incorrectly promoted as having four parts).
Other Things I Loved:
• I loved that when aliens pour out of the spaceship, Barry basically freaks out, like any sane human being, superpowered or not, would do when encountering aliens for the first time. He basically turns into Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, because all he can do is scream "Aliens!" in a strangled voice.
• That the show skips the inevitable "superheroes meet for the first time, fight and then team-up" cliché. I suppose this is mainly because everyone knows each other, more or less, but it was fantastic that superheroes could meet each other and we didn't have to wait for them to stop punching an start talking to realise. And it made their later fight, when most of them were mind-controlled, a lot more satisfying.
• I loved that Thea was 100 per cent ready to end her retirement as Speedy to fight aliens, because she was super-excited to fight aliens.
• That the Dominators 1) kidnapped the president, 2) used mind control devices and 3) put people in Matrix-like paradise pods. They're running the gamut of evil alien clichés, and it's actually fun.
• Watching Supergirl interact with Ollie, who is the humourless Batman of the Arrow-verse. I could watch them team up forever.
• That Heatwave announced he was going to give Supergirl the nickname "Skirt", which is weird, but then you remember he calls the Atom "Haircut" and White Canary "Blondie", so you try to convince yourself it's not that sexist, at which point Heatwave is already in trouble and immediately asks Supergirl, by name, for help. So good.
• I loved Diggle's response to… basically everything. Meeting Supergirl is great, but him seeing the Legends' timeship land is also fantastic: "You know I've never done drugs… because I was always afraid I'd see weird stuff."
• I love that STAR Labs' Aeroplane Hanger of Justice has a pool in front of it, for literally no other reason than it makes it look more like the Hall of Justice.
• I love the newspaper article from the future -- "Flash Vanishes in Crisis" -- that Evil Wells/Eobard Thawne was looking at way back in season one has been changed to be written by Julie Greer instead of Iris West-Allen, but the headline is the same. I love it because it means someone else will write the headline, presumably the editor, in both timelines. This strikes me a highly amusing.
• I love Ollie's response to Barry obsessing over the newspaper article and his culpability in changing the timeline: "Barry, this is a weird-looking newspaper article. It doesn't mean anything."